Chapter 1 : The Woman in Boots
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-The Woman in Boots-
It started with the boots.
It was the kind of night Anthony Goldstein never wanted to have. The last thing he'd wanted to do was go out, but Ernie and Terry had insisted. He needed to get out and dance with a few birds if he wanted any shot at beginning to get over Hannah, they'd said.
But Anthony didn't dance.
Instead, he sat at the bar with a pint of golden ale, barely drinking it because Muggle beer had nothing on the drinks in the wizarding world. He watched Ernie chatting up a couple of cute brunettes at the opposite end of the bar; at the same time, he wondered what Susan's reaction would be if she saw the way Terry was grinding with a fiery redhead on the dance floor.
He scowled, reluctantly taking another sip of his drink and grimacing at the nasty taste. Anthony knew his two best friends meant well, but really, they should have known him better than that. He despised the club scene. He hated crowds, loud chatter, and the relentless strobe lights. The dancing – if you could even call dry-humping to music "dancing" - didn't appeal to him in the slightest. And the music was utter shit. He'd take punk rock and even classical melodies over that pop-techno crap any day of the week.
He really wanted to leave. He contemplated just sneaking away, doubting either Ernie or Terry would notice, but he decided against it. Even though this particular attempt was mediocre at best, the two of them really were trying to help him get over Hannah.
His opinion changed a moment later when out of the blue, a pair of lips sticky with gloss crashed onto his cheek. Startled, Anthony looked over to see a girl his age, make-up smeared all over her face and clearly pissed out of her mind. She stumbled a bit as she threw an unsteady arm around his shoulder.
"Hey, gorgeous," she slurred into his ear. "Let's get outta here. Take me home."
"Get off me."
"Whattsa matter? You swing the other way or somethin'?"
"Get the hell off me," Anthony scolded, wriggling out from under her arm and sauntering away from the bar. He didn't care what Ernie and Terry thought; he was getting out of that trashy hellhole.
The bloody awful music pounded his ears as he passed a group of blokes snorting blow and proceeded to push his way through the sweaty, grinding crowd, wondering why he'd allowed himself to get so far away from the exit in the first place. He thought he heard Terry shout for him, but he ignored it. There was no way he was staying there a minute longer. He didn't care that Ernie and Terry occasionally liked to hit the clubs, but he wanted to be left out of it. He was so out of his element in a place like that.
He was knocked over by a completely oblivious clubber when he was halfway to his destination. He cursed as he landed on his hands and knees and watched the contents of his pocket spill across the floor among the pairs of dancing legs. His wallet, the key to his flat... his wand. That's just what he needed: someone in a Muggle club to step on and break his wand, or even worse, see it.
Anthony scrambled to grab his things, reaching for his wand first and tucking it back into his pocket right away, taking a quick glance up to make sure no one had seen it. No one even seemed to notice he was down there, never mind his wand. Sighing in relief, he grabbed his key and wallet, and was just about to get up until, through the lines of dancers, something out of the corner of his eye caught his attention.
He saw the boots.
They weren't anything out of the ordinary, but they were nice. They were tall, black leather boots with modest heels, reaching about three-quarters of the way up a pair of firm, olive-toned calves. The hem of a studded, denim skirt fell just above the wearer's knees, exposing the smallest hint of her obviously robust thighs.
Anthony was completely mesmerized by the sight; he'd always loved boots on a woman. It was a funny thing. When a man wore boots, they were just that: boots. Nothing more, nothing less. But when a woman wore boots, especially lengthy, sleek ones like that... damn. They drove him positively mad in the most pleasant of ways. Most of the time, Anthony preferred classy and conventional, but boots did him in.
And there was something else about this particular pair. Even though they were just simple black boots - ones that could easily adapt to both casual and slightly more upscale outings, ones that were not likely to ever earn a second glance from the average person – he felt like he'd seen them before.
As he slowly rose to his feet, he tried to keep his glance on the boot-clad legs, hoping his eyes could follow her body and perhaps give him a glimpse of her face. The effort was next to useless. The hazy, smoke-filled air combined with the rapidly blinking lights made it nearly impossible to make out the face of the person standing next to him, never mind someone a few feet away.
Cursing under his breath, he ducked down again, wanting to get one last glance at those amazing boots before heading on his way. Luckily, a few people had shifted here and there and it granted him a better view. The woman was swinging her hips in perfect rhythm to the beat of the tune blaring throughout the club, and for the first time that night, Anthony didn't mind the music so much. What he did mind, however, was the bloke standing behind her. His hands were on her waist and he swayed with her, dangerously close. Anthony didn't even know who the woman was, but he hated that bloke for getting to touch her like that.
What happened next was so quick, Anthony barely had time to process it. The guy's hands wandered down her hips, down her thighs, and to the hem of her skirt, right above the boots. He hooked his fingers around the edge of the denim, attempting to work his way under. In the blink of an eye, the woman turned, and Anthony saw one of the boots rise from the ground. Another dancer shifted and blocked part of his view so he couldn't see exactly what happened, but the way the man suddenly fell to the ground while clutching his abdomen made Anthony fairly certain he'd received a well-deserved knee to the bollocks.
But he paid no mind to that. The boot-adorned legs were walking away. Fast.
Anthony stood suddenly, sure he'd be able to find her now. He saw a head of dark hair weaving through the crowd and heading for the door. It had to be her. Desperately wanting to see her face, he resumed pushing through the crowded dance floor, doing all he could to keep his eyes on her.
He was almost at the edge of the crowd when the woman in the boots made it to the door. She was out of sight in an instant, and he feared he'd lost his chance to see her. Anthony stumbled through the last cluster of drunken people he needed to get by and jogged out the door onto the crowded London street. Crowded.
Anthony looked left, right, and across the street, but he couldn't see her. The sea of heads was too vast, and faces would do him no good, anyway. All he'd be able to recognize her by was her boots.
He considered waiting by the club door. Maybe she'd forgotten her handbag and would soon be back for it. But the chances of that happening were slim to none.
He then considered looking for her, but he shot that idea down immediately. How was he supposed to know which way she'd went? Not to mention, it'd be a little creepy to go looking for a woman he didn't even know just because he'd liked the look of her shoes.
A roar of thunder could be heard in the distance, and Anthony looked up to see the clouds rolling in. A storm was on its way.
This is such a bleedin' cliché, he thought.
Dejected and even a bit lonely, Anthony turned left and began walking to the Apparition point a block away. In spite of himself, he looked down as he walked. He saw tennis shoes, bright pink pumps, several pairs of sandals, some flat slip-ons, and, oddly, a pair of bedtime slippers. He did see a couple of pairs of black boots, but both were far too sophisticated. They weren't the simple, sleek pair he'd seen on the woman in the club.
He was never going to find her.
Anthony continued his trek through the busy streets for a good ten minutes, and as he walked, he thought about the boots. They really had seemed strangely familiar to him, though he had no idea why. He walked the streets of London daily on his way to work at the Ministry, and saw countless women wearing black boots each time. What was so special about those ones in the club? Why had a pair so ordinary struck him as stunning? Who was that woman?
As he rounded the corner onto the final street before his destination, he heard a faint curse up ahead.
"Oh, damn it..."
Though the street was less much less congested than the others, there were still several people around, so at first he had no idea where the voice was coming from. It didn't matter, though, once he looked straight ahead. It was almost miraculous the way the crowd parted perfectly to reveal long, shiny dark hair, a studded denim skirt, and an ordinary pair of tall, sleek black boots.
It was her.
She wasn't going anywhere; she was rooted on the spot and her back was to him, and Anthony hesitated for a moment. It's not as if he could just go tap her on the shoulder and say he saw her dancing in the club. He couldn't attempt small-talk, either; he was never good at that sort of thing. Seeing as she didn't seem to be moving anytime soon, he decided it'd be best to casually walk by, get a quick look at her face, and be on his way. That's all he'd really wanted, anyway.
Or so he thought.
He walked slowly toward her, just slightly off to her right, and kept his eyes on her boots the entire time. What was it about boots that drove him so crazy?
Anthony's plan to continue walking by folded the moment he was next to her and saw her face. He knew her quite well. He'd recognize those chocolate-brown eyes anywhere.
He hadn't seen her since they left Hogwarts the year before, which was a shame; they'd been really good friends during their time there. She smiled when she looked at him, and he instantly wondered why the hell he hadn't written to her since leaving school.
"Anthony, hello!" she exclaimed happily. "It's been a while. How are you?"
"I'm alright, thanks. You?"
"Bit of a weird night, but I'm well, thank you."
Anthony felt a few light raindrops on his arms and saw a few land in Padma's hair, and he was quickly reminded why the boots were so familiar. He'd seen her in them once before. It was their last Hogsmeade visit of sixth year and it was raining like there was no tomorrow. He'd been staying dry in Tomes and Scrolls. In the middle of browsing the many books available, he'd looked out the shop's window to see Padma walking by. She wasn't bothering to dodge the puddles or hold an umbrella above her as she trudged down the path in those same black boots. Her hair was getting soaked and a few strands were sticking to her face, but she didn't appear to care.
That was the first day Anthony had noticed her, really noticed her. She'd just been his fellow Ravenclaw, his partner for prefect rounds, and his friend up until that point. He'd never thought she was ugly, but he'd never been attracted to her, either. That day, however, she looked so pretty. No, more than pretty. It was more than just her looks. There was something about the carefree way in which she carried herself, the way she wasn't afraid of a little rain messing up her hair the way most girls were, that caught his attention.
The boots had helped, too, of course.
Even when he was going out with Hannah, he'd never felt completely happy. Hannah was a lovely girl and he really enjoyed her company while it lasted, but he couldn't help but wonder if the reason things hadn't worked out between them was because he'd unknowingly still had Padma in the back of his mind. Perhaps ever since he saw her walking through the rain that day, she'd been the one he wanted.
"So what brings you to Muggle London?" she asked, pulling him out of his memories and back to the London street, where the rain was beginning to fall a little more steadily.
"Ernie and Terry," he said. "They wanted to check out a club."
"The Station, by any chance? I was just there."
"Were you? I didn't see you," he lied.
"Yeah. Parvati and Lavender wanted me to go with them. I had to get out of there, though. I gave it a chance to make them happoy, but it's not my idea of a good time, you know?"
"It's not really mine, either."
They were silent for a moment. The rain continued to come down in a light shower. Padma shifted her left leg back and forth.
"It's... it's good to see you, Padma," Anthony said. "It's been far too long."
"I agree. We should get together soon and catch up."
As he was about to reply, the sky truly opened, and the rain evolved from a mild drizzle to a complete downpour in a matter of seconds.
"Oh, no!" Padma laughed, though she made no effort to move. He laughed, too.
"How about now?" Anthony said loudly over the rain.
"Catching up. Why not now? You feel like grabbing a cup of tea?" Anthony wasn't sure why he was being so forward, as such behavior was so unlike him, but he kind of liked it.
He liked it even more when she nodded.
"Yeah, okay," she answered with a smile.
He grinned. "C'mon. There's a little tea shop by the Apparition point. They have the best pastries."
He took a two steps before realizing she wasn't next to him. He turned to see her frowning and continuing to wiggle her leg.
"Sorry," she called over the sounds of the storm. "It's just... I'm stuck."
He looked down to see that the heel of her boot was stuck in the sewer.
"Oh, here, let me help," he said. He waited for her to agree. When she nodded, he tentatively wrapped his hands around her leg. He loved the way the leather boot felt against his calloused hands, all smooth and sexy. For a split second, he couldn't help but wonder if the skin it was covering felt smooth and sexy, too.
With a slight twist and push, her leg popped free.
"Thanks," she said with a smile. "Now how about that tea?"
Anthony smiled as they walked side-by-side down the street. Just like in Hogsmeade, Padma made no effort to hide from the rain. No umbrella, no dodging puddles. She simply walked, and when she glanced at him with a smile, Anthony knew he was a goner.
It ended with the boots.
Author's Note: I had a lot of fun with this! I liked experimenting with lesser-written characters. :)
The story was inspired by the following quote, given to me as random prompt from a friend: "There is an element of seduction in shoes that doesn't exist for men. A woman can be sexy, charming, witty or shy with her shoes." - Christian Louboutin.
Thanks so very much for reading! :)